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Brooks and Bands and Garbage Cans

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

(Previously published by South City International School Magazine in the year 2010)

“Without music, life would be a mistake”- Friedrich Nietzsche

Could music be considered man-made? Artificial? Sounds crafted by instruments, created by men and sustained notes vocalised in a distinct pulse we call rhythm? Even a child has the answers to these questions- birds sing, so do whales and dolphins, crickets have their haunting choirs resonating through the night, frogs serenade their mistresses with their rhythmic croaks, the brooks babble and the wind howls, the leaves rustle, the earth rumbles right from its core, and the planets move in an inter-planetary dance around the sun.

The string theory of matter suggests that everything, on a sub-atomic level is made up of strings which resonate like the strings of a violin giving matter its basic characteristics. Therefore the entire cosmos is an ensemble, playing together in harmony amongst the chaos and randomness of it all. On the topic of strings and physics, let me also mention that Albert Einstein said that when he was stuck with a problem he would play his violin, and the solutions would just pop up in his head while he was playing. Music is also said to possess healing powers. Certain kinds of music help plants grow faster; music therapy helps the brain utilise more parts of it. Such is the power of melody, harmony and rhythm.

Are humans the only beings who perceive music? Without getting too philosophical about it let me answer that in brief: I have a golden retriever who is crazy about Blues! Not rock or pop, he loves the Blues. Here I am sitting with the guitar when he snuggles up next to me with a look that says, "Dude, if I had an opposable thumb, I would totally jam with you!" Although I do not fancy giving him a tutorial on sight reading and the history of music, it is quite clear to me that we are not the only ones who enjoy music and all the pleasures that it has to offer.

"But that was good ol' classical music, the kind which enriched brain cells, unlike the music you youngsters listen to which have the opposite effect!" said my grand-uncle, who also happens to be a pianist and classical aficionado.

Change is the only constant, however hard that may be to accept. Music which is popular among us evolves in sound and form. Such is life that one's parents will always say that their music was better, deeper, and more intellectual and what their offspring listen to is closer to rubbish. Please remember that your parents heard the same from their parents, and you will say the same to your children.

Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the music of the modern pop artists destroys brain cells, one may recommend listening to the songs which have made its mark over the years - from Bach of the Baroque era, Mozart and Beethoven from the Classical, Chopin from the Romantic period, the African Americans who introduced Jazz,- a confluence of African and European music and one of the original American art forms-, Blues, -the mother of all modern music-, the singer songwriters -such as Bob Dylan and John Denver-, the rockers Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, the message of peace from Bob Marley, another one from John Lennon from The Beatles, the funk and discotheque tunes from the 70's (Yes, they had discos back then!), Pink Floyd's campaign to break The Wall, right down to our beloved Michael Jackson who rocked the world with his tunes and his steps. We should listen to the music of our forefathers, if only to understand ourselves and our culture better. 20th Century composer John Cage said, "There is no noise, only sound," and proceeded to make music with clay pots, brooms, garbage cans, car horns, spokes of a bicycle wheel and other objects we do not usually see Britney Spears with. Our earliest ancestors made a flute out of the femur bone of a bear, they had their hands and feet for percussion and of course their voice. Imagine the jam session they had! To them, their music was just as precious and popular as the music of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne and John Mayer is to the youngsters of our time. It is my sincerest hope that the present generation, besides their usual repertoire, should also enjoy the good vibrations of the past and feed their souls with the sounds that made our lives more meaningful.

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